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China signals shift in stance on border row with India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the BRICS summit in Goa. File   | Photo Credit: AP

China on Tuesday said the upcoming summit between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan was a trust-building exercise, which would gradually help resolve the border row, and enable the two countries to address major global problems jointly.

“This time, the two sides have decided to hold the informal summit between the two leaders. This is because both our countries attach great importance to each other on external strategy and not because of boundary question that still remains unresolved, and we need talk about it during the informal summit,” Chinese vice-foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said in response to a question during a media briefing.

The Minister also spelt out a road map to settle “specific differences and sensitive issues,” which include the boundary question, following the Wuhan summit.

No to BRI

Meanwhile, India on Tuesday declined to endorse the China-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the foreign ministerial meeting of the eight nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), despite the impending Xi-Modi talks and thaw in Delhi-Beijing ties.

 

India had its name excluded from the list of SCO members, which backed the BRI.

In her address to the SCO Foreign Ministers, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in an obvious reference to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, said connectivity projects must abide with the principle of sovereignty.

Final resolution

Analysts say that China may be gradually shifting its position from “managing” and shelving the border issue, to a fledgling stance of resolving the China-India border dispute. Such a position would align well with Prime Minister Modi’s approach of seeking a final resolution of the boundary dispute.

An official source had earlier told The Hindu that, while a free flowing conversation without a pre-set agenda between the two principals at the Wuhan retreat was expected, Prime Minister Modi, in the past, has expressed particular interest in two broad themes: a final settlement of the India-China boundary, and collaboration between India and China for the fruitful emergence of an “Asian century”.

Mr. Kong acknowledged that the boundary question was “very important”. “Both sides need to work together to create favourable conditions and gradually settle it. And the proper settlement of the boundary question will deepen mutual understanding and consensus…”

In response to question on last year’s Doklam crisis, the senior official said that the standoff in the Sikkim sector “reminds us that both China and India need to make even greater efforts to deepen their mutual trust. The events of last year reflect the somewhat lack of mutual interest between the two countries.”

Mr. Kong stressed that during the informal summit, the two leaders will have “strategic communication on the major changes in the international landscape unseen in more than 100 years.” “They will have in-depth exchange of views on the issues of overarching long-term and strategic importance in the bilateral relations”.

The Chinese official highlighted that the Wuhan summit will be followed by a flurry of official interaction between the two countries, in tune with the broad strategic direction provided by the two leaders. “Both sides also agreed that after the summit the two sides will implement important consensus reached at the meeting maintain high level exchanges, have institutional engagements deepen cooperation, properly handle differences, step up multilateral cooperation and coordination so as to ensure that the China-India relationship will see better and fast development at a new starting point".

Red carpet for Modi

Mr. Kong pointed out that the Chinese side will unroll the red carpet for Mr. Modi in Wuhan. “Some arrangements will go beyond even the expectations of the Indian side," he observed.

"I can’t release (the details) because of security reasons. The two leaders will spend two days in Wuhan. In these two days, they will engage with other on various forums. What I can tell you here is that they will spend a lot of time together one-on-one," he said.


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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 4:48:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-signals-shift-in-stance-on-border-row-with-india/article23660402.ece

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